Author: Kaggr PM
Tristan is second in command in the Athrian army, but longs for more. With the prince also wanting the current rule-abiding general gone, he offers a chance Tristan can't refuse, but with a sneaky assassin on the loose, it may be more complicated...Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Fantasy - Words: 2,474 - Published: 03-31-08 - Status: Complete - id: 2497676
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Hahaha, wrote this not that long ago. Like, the only short story that I've written in two years. Figured I might as well put it up here too..
Tristan sat at his desk, studying the heavy, expensive paper. It was late, and the wax from his candle was starting to make marks on the cheap wood. But as tired and late as he could, he continued to glare at the page, his fingers tracing the ornate lettering that was practically almost memorized.
I know you want the title of General. I know Caldaer has many allies who would rebel if he were removed from his position. So please, meet me at The tavern tomorrow night to discuss other methods of promoting your status.
His hand shook. The prince's motives weren't exactly clear, but for some reason Tristan couldn't shake the idea that perhaps it was something slightly illegal, and he'd worked too hard to throw it away.
But the idea of being General Tristan was appealing…
Austin sat in his corner with his head propped up on his hands, his face slack and pulling his lips back. A very attractive look. He was too tired to have to deal with all of the energy of the bar, and remained because he had nothing better to do. He could go harass Caldaer, but they tended to avoid each other at the moment. The pain from Kayteline's death was too fresh, too stabbingly fresh—
He shut his eyes tightly, rubbing his temples. Kayteline was not a safe subject to think about, not at all…
The sound of the door opening and closing was a welcome break from the unsafe thoughts, and he looked up sharply. Most of the regulars were already here, and it was the wrong season for travelers. The newcomer was dressed as Austin was normally—clad in black with a black hood pulled up to cover his face.
Austin frowned slightly. If it was another assassin, he should probably be warned that this was Austin's city. He stood up, the chair scraping against the wood making hardly any sound in the rest of the noise. Just as he was about to tap on the newcomer's shoulder and educate him about the ways of the city, the door opened again, and another person walked in nervously. This person hadn't tried to hide himself as the other one had, but rather wore the uniform of the General's Elite.
With a slight scowl, Austin sat himself down behind the new assassin, trying to avoid eye contact with Tristan. Despite Caldaer's high regards for his second-in-command, the assassin had never come to like him and his pompous attitude.
So he was surprised when Tristan sat himself down across from the other assassin, pretending to look the other way. Suspicious, Austin did what he did best and faded into the crowd, still within earshot of the two.
Tristan looked the other way, trying not to make it too obvious, but eventually he had to turn to the prince, trying to keep himself calm.
"My lord," he murmured, keeping his voice low. Not that it would be needed in such a loud place, but his military training kept him cautious anyway.
"Am I correct in understanding that if the general were to unexpectedly pass away, the commander of the General's Elite would take his place?" Darran said softly, his elegant voice still sounding calm and controlled, as it always did.
"Y-yes sir," Tristan stammered, his fears seeming to become true.
Darran rolled a small vial towards him, the smile in his voice apparent. "There will be a ball, in a week, for the celebration. General Caldaer is already feeling unwell, but he will, nonetheless, pull himself to this ball as is needed of him. However, it may not be too surprising of all of the activity becomes too much for him…"
Tristan shivered. "You want me to poison my general."
Darran gave him a look. "Now now, he's very ill. Perhaps the wine was too strong for him in such a delicate state…"
The commander sat there for a few moments, studying the vial of clear liquid. After much deliberation, he pocketed it and swept out without a word.
Austin sucked in a breath at the end of their exchange, pushing his way towards the back entrance.
Trick, who was pitifully drunk, laughed at his exit. "Hey Daemon, what's the hurry?"
"Not now, Trick!" Austin snapped back, shoving open the rotting wood back door. He ran across the town to the palace, sneaking into the kitchen through the servant's door. The late-night cooks just looked at him and waved, accustomed to his late night visits. He waved back hastily, following servant passage ways to the wing where Caldaer stayed. Panting softly, he knocked on the door. Caldaer's page or squire or whatever he was opened the door with a nervous glance back into the room. He was as tall as Austin was, but he still seemed small and boyish compared to his master.
"I need to speak to Cal," Austin said breathlessly, trying to see past him into the room.
Surprisingly, the boy stayed and blocked the door. "He's ill. He can't speak to anyone at the moment." After he hesitated a bit, he also said, "My apologies, Austin, but I also have instructions to not let you in unless invited. My apologies, again." He softly closed the door, leaving a bewildered Austin staring into the wood grain.
Tristan nervously tugged at his formal green tunic uniform, fixing the different cords and decorations marking him as not only General's Elite, but also as commander. With one last glance, he left his rooms and made his way down to the ballroom, where music and voices were already starting to float up from. He plastered on a fake smile as he made his way through the crowd, searching for the second to most important man here. When he finally spotted him leaning against a wall with his squire hovering at his side, he pulled two glasses of wine from a passing servant and made his way over.
Trick rubbed a bit more ash into Austin's hair, huffing impatiently.
"I don't see why this is so important," he complained, brushing his hands off.
"I told you, Caldaer won't see me, so I have to not let him know it's me until he's already let me past," Austin said urgently, looking over his clothes to make sure there wasn't any more soot on it. "Am I good?" he demanded. Trick nodded, and Austin rushed through the kitchen into the ballroom without anyone seeing.
He weaved his way through the crowd, with members of the army easy to spot in the green and black tunics, and the General's Elite even easier with the cream colored cords and ribbons and bright colored awards. Caldaer normally stuck out like a sore thumb with his velvet earth tones and his long black hair. When he finally saw him, he noticed that someone else had spotted him as well and was working his way over…
Tristan approached Caldaer with a smile on his face. He nodded to the squire, and the boy slunk away, knowing a dismissal when he saw one. Caldaer gave him a weak smile in return, pushing off from the wall. Tristan instantly felt a pang of regret.
When his general normally stood tall and proud, Caldaer was hunched over. His olive skin tone shone like anyone else's in green, but he looked pale and cold. The glistening black hair that only he could pull off was coming out of the braid someone—probably his sister—had done for him and was sticking to his sweaty skin. He looked horrid overall, but Tristan couldn't help but admire the way he still came out to please the people, even though he should be laying in a healer's ward.
He handed the man the other wine glass, nodding politely. "Can't believe we pulled through all of that," he said conversationally, swirling the dark liquid around in his glass.
Caldaer nodded, attempting to speak. With a frustrated frown, he cleared his throat. "Yes, indeed. I'm slightly disappointed that we had to resort to spies and the like…" he trailed off.
Tristan smiled sympathetically. "You sound horrible, sir. A sip of some liquid would be good for you."
"I've felt horrible lately," Caldaer admitted, putting the glass to his lips.
Austin sped towards his friend, shoving through people rudely. At the last moment, he ricochet off of another man, making it look like he'd been pushed into Caldaer, who jumped in surprise. Austin whirled around, looking between the two men, hoping he looked as flustered as he felt.
"My mistake, gentleman," he said, bowing. He looked up through his now-black hair at Caldaer, who was frowning at him. "May I speak with you, sir?" he asked, walking away in such a way that Caldaer would be forced to follow, which he did.
"What are you doing here, Austin?" Caldaer asked roughly as soon as they were out of earshot from Tristan, who was looking frustrated for some reason.
"Look, I know you haven't wanted to see me, but I have to tell you, I overheard Prince Darran and Tristan talking at the bar." The names were said with some disgust. "That wine, in your hand, is poisoned. I have a feeling that there was some in the first place to make you so ill, and that would just finish you off." Austin eyed the glass warily.
Caldaer just glared at him. "Who are you to say so? How do I know that you aren't just trying to put me against them?" he hissed, his frustration making his accent come through stronger than usual in his common.
Austin looked at him, startled. "Cal, you should know better than that." His voice turned soft. "Please. I don't think I could stand losing two friends…"
Caldaer almost flinched as he looked over, torn. "I…Darran and Tristan? That's quite an accusation…"
"I can prove it to you," Austin said suddenly, pulling a small ball the size of a large marble out of his pocket. It was clear like glass, but still had more of a reflective quality to it. He tipped it into Caldaer's glass, ignoring the protests. The liquid inside suddenly turned cloudy, the glass ball lost inside it.
"It's poisoned," he said softly. "Erin gave it to me. Any poison in it gets cloudy, just like that."
Caldaer stared at it, a tortured look on his already pained face. Finally, he drew in a shaky breath. "I believe you."
Tristan watched the two leave, a deep frown on his face. He'd been so close to getting Caldaer to drink it. He trailed after the two, using a few tricks of his own to stay hidden. Caldaer was looking down at the wine like it was going to attack him…and with a sinking feeling, Tristan suddenly knew who the man was.
Austin Kithara, the notorious assassin who'd managed to get a full pardon in two different countries while also making friends with Caldaer. Wasn't that tavern where he was most of the time now? And the man was cunning enough to get through everyone in the palace without being noticed…
A sudden anger flared in him, and his hand gripped his rapier at his side. He'd much rather have his regular sword, but rapiers were more decorative, especially this one. But like most of the officers higher up, they were sharpened to a stabbing point, should the need arise. Weaving his way through the crowd, he positioned himself behind the assassin, softly drawing his sword. The metallic sound melded strangely with the cheery music and the laughter in the room, and his hand tightened around the ornate hilt while he picked his way across to Austin.
Caldaer glanced behind Austin, catching the flash of metal in the light. He stiffened, his hand automatically going towards the sword that would normally be there. With a desperate sigh, he found only his decorative rapier, the one that sat in his closet until he had to go to silly things like this.
"Austin, don't turn around," he warned, raising his glass casually to give Austin a chance to see behind him without directly turning around to see. Austin's ice blue eyes looked in it, but he didn't register anything.
"What am I looking for?" he asked under his breath, hands straying towards hidden knives.
"Tristan is coming at you with his rapier, which he's kept sharp," Caldaer responded. Austin gave a slight nod.
"Go back to your room or your little pet boy or something," he murmured. "You're unarmed and ill. This isn't going to be a good fight for you."
Caldaer looked like he was going to refuse, but then decided better, walking away while calling "Alexander!" Even while he was ill, he could still manage to make his voice carry over everything else without yelling.
Austin watched him go, then heard the startled squeals from ladies as they hurried to get past the now charging Tristan.
He spun around, throwing an arm in front of his chest. The rapier point stabbed into the leather pads on his arm, and he felt the painful prick on his skin before he brought his right blade around to sweep the sword's point off and putting himself closer to Tristan, with a knife against the Athrian's neck. Adrenaline pulsed through his body, his fight or flight instincts telling him to knock the man out.
Before Tristan had a chance to make another move, Caldaer had twisted one of his former comrade's arms behind his back, then kicked the back of his knees so that Tristan fell to his knees. His rapier clattered to the floor and Caldaer put his other arm behind him. The squire, Alexander quickly took hold of the army commander while Caldaer shook from the sudden exhaustion on his sick body.
Everything around them had frozen, with all eyes locked on the four.
"Tristan Helikan, you are arrested for the attempted murder of the general of the Athrian army," Caldaer said shakily.
Austin watched with silent eyes. A shiver raced down his spine and the feeling of being watched by hateful eyes pierced into his back. With a hesitant glance behind him, he saw Prince Darran glaring at him fiercely. He mouthed the word 'revenge', then swept away into the shadows.